View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
This is perhaps, as proposed by Jerrold Ziff1 and followed by Lynn Matteson, a study for the oil painting The Army of the Medes destroyed in the Desart by a Whirlwind, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1801.2 The subject is continued on folio 63 recto opposite (D01567; Turner Bequest XL 61). In its explosive force and vigorous use of chalks as well as pencil, this is one of the most remarkable drawings of Turner’s early years. Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll note its compatibility with contemporary comments on the painting which refer particularly to the dust and smoke.3 It embodies much of his ambition as a painter of historical subjects, anticipating as it does the great Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army crossing the Alps of 1812 (Tate N00490).4 Another opening of this book, folios 60 verso–61 recto (D01562–D01563; Turner Bequest XL 58a–59) has a drawing that seems to be a similar though less dramatic idea for the same subject.
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